Hi, Alleyans! It's Jim here, with my first post in a loooooong while. I had hoped to do this on the reg, but things got really busy once the store opened back up and I went back to work. So what brought me back, you ask? Well, I had the opportunity to read a couple of great books over the holiday weekend and they just inspired me to spread the word.
The first book I want to talk about is called Heterogenia Linguistico: An Introduction to Interspecies Linguistics, by Salt Seno. It's the story of Hakaba, a young linguist who, after his mentor is injured, is tasked with a one-year journey into the Netherworld to research the languages of the various creatures who live there. Guiding him on his journey is Susuki, the adorable half-werewolf daughter of his professor.
What struck me about Heterogenia Linguistico is that, at least so far, the hero is venturing into unknown lands, but it's not about a quest for glory or to defeat some monster or find some artifact. Hakaba is just out to learn about these strange cultures and expand on the professor's notes.
Presented as a travel diary, we watch as Hakaba strives to overcome communication gaps between himself and werewolves, lizard men, sea creatures, and harpies. He must learn to haggle, write with colors instead of words, and speak in complicated gestures. The comedy arises from his willingness to try anything to immerse himself, and the awkwardness of his attempts. Over the course of the first volume, he quickly comes to see that these creatures that humanity perceives as monsters are really just other civilized cultures that are too foreign for us to understand without putting in a good deal of effort.
Heterogenia Linguistico is written with a gentle touch that those who are used to more action packed manga or anime may find surprising. It lives in the small details and fascinating minutiae of these fictional foreign cultures. The art is imaginative and expressive, and brings humor and humanity to the strange creatures presented therein.
The other manga I want to tell you about is a series called Heaven's Design Team. It is exactly what the title says: A workplace comedy about the team of designers assigned by God (referred to as "the client") to create all the animals on earth.
Each chapter, they are given a direction from their client to create a new animal with some vague quality or another. Then the team brainstorms new animals, tests them for flaws, make adjustments and submit them for The Client's approval to be sent to earth. Along the way, we the reader are given various strange and interesting facts about the animals they're creating, sometimes not even learning what the end result is until the last page.
The characters all have strong personalities, and various friendly rivalries pop up between them all. The elderly Mr. Saturn, for example, created his masterpiece, the horse, a long time ago, and has been coasting off it ever since, trying to get variations on the horse, like the pegasus and unicorn approved to no avail. Jupiter, the inventor of the cow, is only interested in eating his own creations. They all bounce off of each other in delightful, silly ways. Worth noting, I also appreciated the inclusion of Venus, a non-binary character to whom the translator assigned They/Them/Their pronouns. Yay, representation!
The writing, with the biology stuff tackled by writer Hebi-Zou and the character stuff by Tsuta Suzuki, is fast paced, good natured, and fun. It's so entertaining you don't even realize that you're reading an educational comic (hey, those can be fun too!). They have a ton of fun trying to break down the creative process that would have lead to real (or imagined) animals, showing with science why pegasus or unicorns couldn't work, or how female anglerfish absorb males into their bodies. The art, by Tarako, is clean, and playful, and somehow feels bright even though it isn't in color. Important attention is given to making the animals as accurate to their real-life counterparts as possible.
So, in conclusion, if you like a good laugh, are interested in things like fictional cultures or oddball biological facts, check out these delightful books! I know manga can be overwhelming for some, but they are both very early in their publication runs (Linguistico has one volume, Heaven's Design Team has two), and are easy for all kinds of readers to jump into and enjoy.
That's all for now! I thought I'd come on and write a quick review, and now it's 90 minutes and five thousand words later. Maybe I'll be inspired to do this again sometime, sooner rather than seven months later. Hope everybody had a fun and safe holiday season. Come on by and say hello!
Bonus video: Whoa, there's a Heaven's Design Team anime coming out in January!